Mark Kirkham shares insight from his more than 13 years at the CPG giant and what he’s learned working at the cola and Gatorade manufacturer.

Beverage Diaries: A discussion with PepsiCo’s CMO of international drinks

Permission granted by PepsiCo

Mark Kirkham is chief marketing officer of PepsiCo’s international beverages business, overseeing global brand strategies and marketing for the beverage portfolio outside of the U.S. His job, based in Dublin, entails being a «brand steward» and serving as «a catalyst» for the company’s growth, he said. 

Kirkham started working at the CPG company in 2010. He previously was responsible for leading global strategy, brand building and innovation for PepsiCo’s global sports, energy and juice businesses.

He recently sat down with Food Dive to talk about PepsiCo and his job at the beverage giant.

FOOD DIVE: What does a day look like for you? 

MARK KIRKHAM: When you work in a global role, you work across various time zones. We spend most of our days having conversations with local markets, conversations with internal teams and working with project partners. We spend a lot of time with consumers, a lot of time with the different markets around the world, a lot of time with our teams, our agency partners and our bottlers to build the brand programs that we launch internationally.

FOOD DIVE: What have you done so far today?

Beverage Diaries: A discussion with PepsiCo’s CMO of international drinks

Optional Caption Permission granted by Pepsico  

KIRKHAM: We spent some time talking about our Gatorade plans and how we are looking to accelerate our no-sugar platforms around the world with Gatorade No Sugar. And we talked about our energy portfolio.

FOOD DIVE: What time do you generally wake up?

KIRKHAM: I get up every day around 5:30. I typically go to the gym for an hour and then head into the office. I try to get into the office at least three days a week.

FOOD DIVE: How many people are on your team?

KIRKHAM: Fifty of the 100 in the office are directly in the marketing department. 

FOOD DIVE: What’s the most surprising thing you have learned about PepsiCo since working there?

KIRKHAM: One of the most surprising things about Pepsi is just the diversity of knowledge, the diversity of cultures, the diversity of business models. When you come to PepsiCo, particularly on the beverage side, you’ve got franchise businesses where you work with different bottlers in different parts of the world. On top of that, there’s cultural diversity, gender diversity, diversity of thought. We have over 330,000 employees and we get the opportunity to engage with frontline workers up to senior management. 

FOOD DIVE: Let’s get a bit more granular. What’s your morning beverage?

KIRKHAM: Green tea.

FOOD DIVE: What’s your afternoon, pick-me-up beverage?

KIRKHAM: No question, Pepsi Max — which it’s called in Ireland and a few other markets — aka Pepsi Zero Sugar. 

FOOD DIVE: What’s your favorite adult beverage?

KIRKHAM: If I could only have one, I’d have a nice glass of Barolo. When I was a bartender working at Italian restaurants I fell in love with Italian wine. 

FOOD DIVE: Growing up, were you a Pepsi family or a Coke family?

KIRKHAM: We were a Diet Pepsi family. I lived in New Bern, North Carolina, in the early 1980s, which is the home of Pepsi. So back when I was a kid I went to the birthplace of Pepsi. I bled blue for a long time.

FOOD DIVE: What are your hobbies?

KIRKHAM: I’ve played guitar since I was 13. I don’t get enough time to do it so I’m probably a bit rusty. I love skiing. I love watching sports, in particular soccer — or football, which is what it’s called in Europe. And then food and travel.

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